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Researcher uses pulp residue to replace fertilizer

The positives of using waste materials continue to show up in research, particularly that of an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researcher, who is studying the benefits of pulp and paper residues on legumes, potatoes and grain crops.


June 2, 2009
By New Brunswick Business Journal

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June 1, 2009

John Shmuel

In a lab in Fredericton, soil researcher Sherif Fahmy is turning garbage into profit. Fahmy, who works for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, uses pulp residue from pulp and paper mills to replace increasingly expensive fertilizers in growing crops.


"We're sitting on a gold mine here, in my opinion," he says, talking about the thousands of tonnes of pulp waste that continues to end up in landfills.


For the last 11 years, Fahmy's tested the effects of pulp residue on legume, potato and grain growth. His research shows that using forestry residuals – collective waste such as sawdust, bark and effluent from pulp and paper mills – has a number of benefits not only for crops, but for the environment.


"When pulp and paper effluent ends up in landfills, or if the waste is buried, it produces methane gas. That affects the climate," Fahmy says


To test the effects the residual matter has on crops, Fahmy spent four, three-year cycles growing three different crops – legumes, potatoes and grain.


He found that the soil during the study demonstrated improved water retention and increased organic content, while simultaneously boosting crop yield. It also prevented soil erosion. That last point is important Fahmy says, because highland areas like the potato-growing belt around Grand Falls are susceptible to the phenomenon.


Using forestry residuals for farming has already yielded practical applications outside of the lab. A New Brunswick company is currently employing the technique to produce compost for local farms.


Envirem Technologies Inc., based in Fredericton and specializing in industrial and organic waste recycling, is using forestry residuals to produce commercial composts to replace fertilizer.


The company's goal, like Fahmy's, is to have forestry residuals adopted in place of traditional fertilizers and soil supplements.

For the rest of the story, check out: No pulp fiction here